Through the 2014 NFL Draft, which will be held in New York, NY from May 8-10, Florida Gators defensive back Jaylen Watkins will be keeping you up-to-date on his Path to the Draft with exclusive blog entries here at OnlyGators.com.
Florida’s third-leading tackler with 52 takedowns last season, Watkins played safety for the Gators after being primarily used as a cornerback – the position he will play as a professional – during his first three years. Watkins started 28 of the 48 games in which he participated but saw the field for starter’s minutes in many of those other contests.
His sixth entry was submitted on Wednesday, one day after he returned to South Florida from Indianapolis, IN, where he participated in the 2014 NFL Combine. Watkins continued to impress and came away with some of the most noteworthy scores in the events in which he was physically able to participate.
Part II: 40-yard dash, free swag, departure
We flew out of here on Saturday morning and had a two-hour layover in Atlanta before we could make it to Indianapolis. A bunch of us met up in Atlanta – Marcus Roberson and I were both working out in South Florida but flew out at different times for some reason. Also on the flight with us was Dontae Johnson (North Carolina State), Tre Boston (North Carolina) and Jabari Price (North Carolina), who wound up being my roommate for the entire four-days at the combine.
Once we got there, the second you get there, you have a bunch of forms to sign and then you go to your room, put things down and go straight for medical testing. You get your blood checked, have a urine drug test and take a bunch of X-rays and MRIs if you have or had injuries. Because there are so many players and MRIs especially take a long time, there can be a lot of waiting around.
By the time we got out of there, we went to dinner and were able to relax for a little while. Afterward there are informal interviews with teams from 8-11 p.m., which was very similar to how they did it at the start of the Senior Bowl.
The next morning was an early wake-up because of the second drug test, which they start taking people at 4:15 a.m. But I got up at 3:30 a.m. so I could be the first in line and they let me take it at 4:05 a.m., so I was able to go back to my room afterward and get some sleep.
I woke back up around 6:30-7 a.m. and continued medical testing, which lasted most of the day. The guys without any injuries were occupied for about five hours. Because I sprained my Achilles at the Senior Bowl, everybody wanted to do their own tests on it. I waited in line for three hours for an MRI alone and was getting medical testing done (or waiting around for it) for seven total hours that day.
We were all able to grab dinner after that and relax again before the time that was set aside for formal and informal interviews. Participating in so many interviews at the Senior Bowl, I felt well-prepared for what I would face at the combine. I also had one formal interview on Saturday when I arrived, so I got a taste of what would be coming throughout the process.
This time the interviews were more formal with most teams having their coaches, general managers and even some owners in the room. They have film up on you and ask you questions about why you reacted a certain way, for example.
I personally did not run into anything where they put up mistakes on the film but some other guys told me they got jarred when the coaches put up film of them making the wrong read or blowing coverage or missing a tackle or something like that. I was fortunate to where the teams pulled up mostly good plays except for one in the Arkansas game that I was able to explain why I messed up.
They also ask personal questions about your family, how you would conduct yourself in the locker room. A lot of teams asked about how I would handle a situation like what happened with the Miami Dolphins. They’re trying to get a feel of how you could react to certain situations being in a locker room with other players who might have different perspectives, be more aggressive or more passive. I was prepared for them to ask questions about Michael Sam or handling a situation like that in a locker room, but no one brought it up or asked about it.
While players are doing formal interviews, those that have completed theirs for the night (or do not get invited to any) can go to a big ballroom where there are a bunch of teams conducting informal interviews. Most of the teams know you by face, but they’ll look at their card and if you’re a player they were hoping to see, a coach will grab you and interview you and talk to you for however long they want.
I was able to get a good night’s sleep, which I thought was important before heading into the third day. A lot of players find the third day pretty taxing, some even more than the workout, so I was prepared just in case.
When you wake up in the morning, you go to a NFLPA meeting where they talk about drug testing, all the ways you can get fined and all the reasons players get in trouble even when they do not. For example, there are a ton of ways the teams and league have for players to avoid drinking and driving, yet some do it anyway.
Right after that there is a bunch of psychological testing. The first test you take is the Wonderlic, which is the famous test that all fans know about and the media talks about. I was comfortable heading out of it, but I don’t know my score.
What was nice for me was I had already taken three tests at the Senior Bowl, and you are able to carry those test answers over. I actually skipped a few questions on a couple of those tests, so I just filled in the blanks and was able to only spend a couple of minutes in the room for some of the tests. Some guys had not taken any of the tests and had to run a gauntlet from one to another, which I think tired a lot of guys out mentally.
We then went over to the bench press room around 11 a.m. and there was a great energy in there. Believe it or not, even in those few days, you build quick relationships with a lot of the players and coaches. You would think that atmosphere would be very competitive, but it is only that way when you do the on-field drills. Most of the guys are friendly, and the coaches are there to motivate you, so you definitely have your blood pumping in that room.
Being able to put up 22 reps of 225 lbs. felt really good. I am usually able to put up 16-17 reps, but I guess the adrenaline and desire to compete was really going for me. A few guys I work out with in South Florida got higher numbers, too, so I figured I’d go over 16…but I didn’t think I’d do six more reps!
You are able to relax again after the bench press if you do not have to take any more medical tests. I went to lunch then went back to my room and took a nap so I could rest up before formal interviews began again at 5 p.m.
I had six formal interviews that night, which took up most of the evening. I had the opportunity to go back to the informal interview room after that, but between the Senior Bowl and the previous day, I had pretty much already met with every team in that manner.
After leaving the informal interview room, I went over to the convention center where my trainer, Tony Villani, was based. I went every night to get stretched out but that night we made sure to do whatever we could to get me prepared for the on-field workout on Tuesday. I will discuss that and the rest of the combine on Friday.
Don’t miss Part II: 40-yard dash, free swag, departure